Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 20, 2018

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Bonnie Kristian
SNL finale
NBC/Screenshot

1.

Trump calls for investigation of FBI informant

President Trump tweeted Saturday evening in apparent response to Friday's news that an American academic working as an FBI informant met with several members of his 2016 campaign as part of the agency's then-beginning probe into Russian election meddling. "If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal," Trump wrote. "Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!" Friday's New York Times report about the informant said there is no evidence "the informant acted improperly" or that the inquiry was "politically motivated." [Politico, The Hill]

2.

China to 'significantly increase' purchases of U.S. exports

After extensive trade negotiations, Washington and Beijing said in a joint statement Saturday China will buy more American exports. "To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services," the statement said. "This will help support growth and employment in the United States." The statement did not specify the quantity or timeline of the increase, nor did it say whether China would be exempted from President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Rather, the "United States will send a team to China to work out the details." [CNN, Politico]

3.

Donald Trump Jr. reportedly met with Saudi emissary promising election help

In August of 2016, President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met in Trump Tower with an emissary of two Saudi princes offering his father help in winning the presidential election, The New York Times reported Saturday. Per the Times report, the meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, founder of the private military firm formerly known as Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Also present was an Israeli social media specialist who wanted to work for the campaign. Trump Jr. said through a representative the meeting happened, but he rejected the offers. This took place two months after Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer. [The Hill, The New York Times]

4.

Texas high school shooting victims identified

The 10 people killed in Friday's mass shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, were identified by Galveston County authorities Saturday: Sabika Sheikh, Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Shana Fisher, Kim Vaughan, Chris Stone, Cynthia Tisdale, Christian "Riley" Garcia, Jared Conard Black, and Kyle McLeod. Perkins and Tisdale were substitute teachers; the other eight victims were Santa Fe students. Sheikh was an exchange student from Pakistan, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday sent his "deepest condolences" to her loved ones. [Los Angeles Times, CBS News]

5.

Reports suggest a personal motive in Texas school shooting

The suspect in Friday's mass shooting at a Texas high school, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, has been arrested on multiple murder charges. He gave a statement "admitting to shooting multiple people" and reportedly told police he "did not shoot students he did like so he could have his story told." Authorities are still investigating Pagourtzis' motives in his attack, but early reports suggest a personal element. The mother of one of the victims told the Los Angeles Times her daughter, Shana Fisher, was targeted because she had repeatedly rejected Pagourtzis' advances before the attack. [Los Angeles Times, The Week]

6.

Maduro expected to secure another term in Venezuelan election

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to secure another six-year term as his country goes to the polls Sunday despite the dire conditions Venezuelans face under his leadership. Venezuela has been in a state of crisis for several years, suffering grave shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities as well as hyperinflation. Some of Maduro's critics are boycotting the election, which they say will be rigged regardless of participation, in an attempt to delegitimize Maduro's win. The two most popular opposition candidates have been banned from running by the Maduro government. [Reuters, The Guardian]

7.

Cuban plane crash preceded by safety complaints

The charter company that owned the plane that crashed in Cuba on Friday, killing more than 100 people, was previously subject to multiple safety complaints. Damojh Airlines, based in Mexico, was renting the plane and contracting the crew to Cuba's state-run carrier, Cubana de Aviacion. The craft was previously banned from Guyanese airspace after Guyanese officials caught the crew overloading luggage. A different Damojh plane "dropped off radar completely" in 2010. Cuba is investigating the cause of the crash, and Mexico has pledged to investigate Damojh more broadly. [BBC News, The Associated Press]

8.

North Koreans defect on eve of U.S.-Pyongyang talks

A North Korean military officer and a civilian defected from their country early Saturday morning. They were found in the Yellow Sea, the ocean area between the Korean Peninsula and mainland China, close to the border between North and South Korea. The two North Koreans reportedly expressed a desire to defect and were taken to South Korea. This is the first military defection from North Korea in a decade, and it comes shortly before the planned talks between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. [Reuters, Fox News]

9.

Melania Trump returns to White House after kidney surgery

First lady Melania Trump returned to the White House Saturday morning after being hospitalized for surgery Monday to treat a "benign kidney condition." The embolization procedure, which is designed to block blood flow to a benign tumor or other abnormal tissue growth, was completed without complications. "Great to have our incredible First Lady back home in the White House. Melania is feeling and doing really well," President Trump tweeted later Saturday. "Thank you for all of your prayers and best wishes!" [Politico, Reuters]

10.

Tina Fey closes out SNL's season with a star-studded show

Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey closed out the show's 43rd season hosting a star-studded episode. Her 30 Rock costar, Alec Baldwin, returned once again as President Trump, and Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller reprised their recent appearances as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Trump attorney Michael Cohen, respectively. But not every cameo happened in character: Jerry Seinfeld, Fred Armisen, Donald Glover, Anne Hathaway, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Rock, and more showed up for a meta bit about whether the show is disadvantaging newer cast members by bringing in so many celebrities for choice roles. [Variety, The Week]